Ross ramped up to get going as Cubs manager

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Chicago Cubs open Cactus League play Saturday with a game against the Oakland A's, marking David Ross' (right) debut as manager.

    The Chicago Cubs open Cactus League play Saturday with a game against the Oakland A's, marking David Ross' (right) debut as manager. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/21/2020 6:24 PM

MESA, Ariz, -- From the minute he was hired to replace Joe Maddon as Cubs manager on Oct. 24, David Ross has tossed and turned at night while running lineups, starting rotations and bullpen configurations through his mind.

On Saturday, his new job becomes a reality when the Cubs open Cactus League play against the Oakland A's at Sloan Park.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Originally scheduled to start at 2:05 p.m. (Chicago time), the game has been pushed back to 7:10 p.m. due to a threat of early rain.

Ross will be ready to manage no matter what time the game starts.

"It's something I've been thinking about for a long time," Ross said. "As a player, you're just trying to walk through things. As a manager, you're ready to get going."

Here are five things to watch as the Cubs move into the exhibition season:

Top heavy

Kris Bryant is the new leadoff hitter and Anthony Rizzo is slated to bat second.

That's a lot of thunder at the top of the lineup, so the pressure is on the Cubs' 3-8 hitters to make Ross' strategy pay off.

Second glance

The best battle in camp is at second base, where David Bote, Jason Kipnis, Nico Hoerner, Daniel Descalso and Robel Garcia are all in the mix. Ian Happ is another candidate, but he's likely to stick in center field.

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"We've got a whole crowd of guys," Hoerner said.

Calf and hand injuries slowed Kipnis last season, his ninth and final year with the Indians. If he's healthy, the Northbrook native can still produce.

Fifth fodder

Tyler Chatwood is the Cubs' likely No. 5 starter heading into Cactus League play, with Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay also in play.

Chatwood was 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA in 5 starts last season. He has a power arm but command issues are still a big concern.

Dark horse

He hasn't pitched since July of 2018 due to elbow injuries, but Brandon Morrow is back with the Cubs on a minor-league contract.

The former closer is being eased into action, which makes sense given the long layoff. If his elbow is sound, Morrow could give the Cubs' revamped bullpen a needed boost.

Health watch

Javier Baez missed most of last September with a hairline left thumb fracture, and the star shortstop wasn't sure how it would feel when he arrived at training camp and took live batting practice.

So far, so good, and that's welcome news for a Cubs' lineup that needs some thump in the middle.

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